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Old News Stories
Cherokee Newspaper, 1832

From Lycoming Gazette
Williamsport, Pa.
May 16, 1832


"The Cherokees," said John Ridge in the late speech, "are the only modern nation who can claim the honor of having invented an Alphabet. George Guess, a Cherokee Indian, who did not understand a single letter, within a few years had invented an alphabet in which a newspaper is now published in the Cherokee nation, and their children taught to read and write. He was a poor man, living in a retired part of the nation, and he told the head man one day, that he could make a book. The chiefs replied it was impossible, because they said the Great Spirit at first made a red and a white boy, to the red boy he gave a book, and to the white boy a bow and arrow, but the white boy came round the red boy and stole his book and went off leaving him the bow and arrow, and therefore an Indian could not make a book.

But George Guess thought he could. He shut himself up to study, his corn was left to weeds, and he was pronounced a crazy man by the tribe. His wife thought so too, and burned up his manuscripts, wherever she could find them; but he persevered. He first attempted to form a character for every word in the Cherokee language, but was forced to abandon it. He then set about discovering the number of sounds in the language, which he found to be 86, and for each of these he adopted a character. The characters combined, like letters, to form words. Having accomplished this he called together six of his neighbors and said, now I can make a book. They did not believe him. To convince them he asked each of them to make a speech which he wrote down as they spoke, then read to them, so that each one knew his own speech, and they then acknowledged he could make a book, and from the invention of this great man the Cherokees have become a reading people."

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